Showing posts with label Organic Gardening - Record Keeping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Organic Gardening - Record Keeping. Show all posts

Monday, 20 September 2010

Garden Lessons

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

I keep a garden journal in a simple notebook. Nothing fancy, college rule size lines represent my rows in my gardens - and my hieroglyphics mostly likely would take some deciphering by anyone other than myself. I keep track of varieties, planting & harvest dates, amendments, tillage and weather. The information when set down isn't that important, it is later when I am able to look back and draw conclusions or make decisions on past events that my garden chronicle takes on its true identity.

This year while most of the U.S. baked, we grew moss on our backs, the Pacific Northwest is known for its rainfall, but this was the hardest year for gardens/crops in my garden memory. In a normal year, we have a rainy spring, and then a lull in May enabling at least some planting. This year there was no lull, which delayed planting until mid to late June. Those first plantings in May are a critical time for some of my winter roots. They need a full growing season to mature, if a month gets lopped off on the beginning, my winter stores are in jeopardy. The jury is still out on my root crops normally planted in May, they are plugging away slow and steady. Root crops I plant in June are doing well. No differences there. Definitely this has been the year for cool weather crops.

Warm weather crops have been almost non-existent in my garden this year. I have peppers only because they are planted in a hoophouse where I can exert a little more control over the temperature. With our cool nights this summer we couldn't have began to come close to the minimum heat units needed to ripen warm season type crops. I can't go by the days to maturity on a seed packet - which is just an average anyway - I have to think of heat units. For instance, at my location a 69 day early sweet corn takes on an average, 95 days to ripen. This is where my garden diary excels. Garden books are great as a baseline, but the lab that is my garden is where I get most of my new information for next years garden and beyond.

From past notes, I knew that dry beans were out if planted any later than Memorial Day, so I didn't waste my seed. It was a good thing too, they would never have matured. I just picked my first green beans this past week. Normally in early September I am harvesting those beans for seed for the next years crop, and getting ready to put the poles away for winter. While I am a little wistful about tomatoes and corn, I am not writing off the garden season as a bust. Rather, it was just different and we had to adapt. Using my garden notes of past successes and failures, I could make informed decisions on whether to plant certain vegetables on not. The cooler weather actually made my later plantings of fall and winter vegetables easier. It's sometimes a push to keep cool weather transplants stress free in August - but this year it was a snap.

My garden notations are invaluable to me in my ongoing quest to grow most of our own food. Do you keep a garden journal and does it help you make better decisions for planning your garden?

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Garden Journaling

 By Abby of  Love Made The Radish Grow
One of the most overlooked but most important aspects to growing your own food (and flowers!) is keeping track of what happens from year to year and planning for the next. I have to be honest, it is something I have been kind of slack on in the past, but count my blog as a huge aid now in doing so. I try to keep records of what I plant, when I start it (if it needs started inside), plus pictures of the sprouts for identification (very important for someone who -it never fails-ends up with mixed up seedlings right before their big move outside), when they sprouted, when they leaved, when I moved them out, when I did my direct sowing, where I planted everything, when it blossomed, when it fruited, how well it fruited, pictures of EVERYTHING, any issues with pests and if anything worked to rid them, whether we liked a variety or not, soil amendments, plus our preservation planning is now added in.

It seems like a lot, but just a couple minutes a day should do well. Just pay attention and write it down! You will be so glad you did. I know that I planted a certain variety of lettuce last year we just didn't eat. We didn't like it. So it gets scratched from our list and new varieties come in. I know that four years ago I was planting brassicas on this date outside, but the last three I haven't gotten them out until May, and that the April planted ones did a lot better than my May ones did. This gives me information so that I make a point to really shoot for April plantings (though obviously the weather is my biggest issue with whether this happens or not) and change something I do (fall tilling, which I couldn't last year, or separate raised bed that needs little cultivation and cares not whether it has rained or not for planting) to make sure they see April sun. I could easily forget how things went without my notes.

Another aspect to the journals, though, is also the beauty. This year I made a point of illustrating my plans for the garden. I tried to make them pretty, but with the little time I have, not as pretty as some are able to do. It helps me see quickly what I am doing, make changes as necessary and will be a pleasant addition to my journal. Right now they grace my wall, making my office a reminder of the sunny days to come. Pictures of my produce are handy for when I want to market on the net what we've been doing, but also just in the beauty of food. In the rat race that is the standard American food system, the beauty of homegrown, whole foods is outstanding, especially in heirloom varieties. It gets lost in mass marketed supermarket foods and drive throughs. There is nothing so beautiful as July's bounty caught on (digital) film.

One last thought is the heritage that is recorded in such journals. My children can see what we were doing for the growing months by looking at my records. I can put down when they started helping, and also teach them to start their own gardens and journals. My oldest loved drawing pictures of the pea sprouts in her tiny patch last year, and seeing them go from seed to peas. It creates something else we can share in our relationship, also something that they can use as they grow. I get a lot of my motivation for what I do from my time spent with my dad and grandparents as a young girl. Both were big on the homesteading movement in the eighties, and I took all of that with me to use as an adult. One of my favorite pictures is part of my dad's gardening journal-a shot of a huge bounty in the back of his pickup truck, full of color. It is my inspiration every year, and a reminder of how important keeping track of my interactions with our farm is.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Keeping Track of Your Harvests

by: ChiotsRun

When it comes to growing food for yourself, it's easy to get overwhelmed and feel like no matter how much you're growing it's not enough, particularly if you only have a small garden space. I often feel like I'm not growing as much as I could and if I could only be better at succession planting, or cold weather gardening I could provide even more of my food.

Last year I didn't keep track of our garden harvests, except for the tomatoes, so I have no idea how much of our food actually came from our garden. This year I've been keeping track in a spreadsheet system that I set up (it even has a bar graph that charts the totals of all the different kinds of vegetables). Keeping track of my harvests has really helped show me that even though I don't have much garden space, I'm still providing a lot of food for us. (If you would like to download the Garden Harvest Spreadsheet head over to my blog, the beautiful one pictures is a MAC program, but there's a less pretty Excel version as well)

I was very discouraged at the end of September. The weather cooled much earlier than normal which means that none of my fall crops will mature. I was thinking back over the month and I felt like I hadn't harvested hardly anything. So I sat down to write my monthly harvest totals blog post for my blog and much to my surprise, my September garden harvest totals were only 10 lbs less than my August totals. I was able to harvest 142 lbs of food from our gardens in the month of September.

After listing all of the things I harvested my spirits were lifted and I realized why it's important to keep track of the harvest. They not only remind me how much of a difference I can make by growing a little of my own food, but they help keep me motivated to garden despite setbacks because it helps me look at the big picture. This method works well for me, I'm at my computer a lot during the day since I work from home, so I always keep my Garden Harvest Spreadsheet open, when I head out to the garden to harvest, I come back in, weigh it and enter it into the spreadsheet.

Are you in the habit of keeping track of your garden harvests? If so, what method works for you?

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Garden Help Online

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

There is some fantastic info online for gardeners. I often do a quick search if the computer's on, rather than hunting down the right page in a gardening book. Books are fantastic resources and I love to sit and browse and absorb all the info. I use the computer more for quick research tasks though.

Here are some fact sheets I've found useful -

Bulleen Art & Garden Fact Sheets

Burke's Backyard Gardening Fact Sheets

Gardening Australia's Fact Sheets

Introduction to Permaculture - 155 page pdf file

Other places to search for info are your local council's website, nursery websites within your state, local tree-planting/revegetation groups, the Department of Environment, and sites for other gardening TV shows and publications such as Earth Garden.

Fact sheets make a useful addition to a gift of potted plants or seeds. Print out appropriate fact sheet and include with the gift if the recipient is likely to need some info to keep their growing gift alive.

Another source of info is online forums. I've found some great friends and answers at sites like -

Aussies Living Simply

Permaculture Research Institute

There are more forums attached to the gardening TV and magazine websites, as well as more specific ones to do with chooks, bushtucker, natives, roses, etc. Happy networking!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Garden Fare

Don - A View From the Green Barn

As I was planning out my vegetable garden this year, I was forced to think seriously about what I would plant and why I would plant particular things. How do I choose what I will grow? Since I am relatively new to having a veg garden, I don't have decades of eating and enjoying the "fruits" of my garden, but also I don't have the experience of knowing what is easy to grow and what might prove difficult. As I pored over the millions of seed catalogues and studied various blogs, I started to formulate a plan.

Here is what I came up with for my veg patch this year:

Tomatoes: I have three types of tomatoes, heirloom brandywines, hybrid better boys, and romas. I chose these three because I wanted to see what all the hoopla about the brandywines is all about, the better boys, because they get large and we like to fry them in olive oil while they are green, and the romas, because we like to make salads with tomatoes in them and it just feels good to use a tomato with an Italian name.

Pole beans: I have never tried growing pole beans, I have done the bush variety and we ate a lot of fresh green beans last summer! This year, I decided to do a Three Sisters garden, based on the Chippewa Native Americans' gardening model. I have about ten pole beans in the ground and about two feet long, getting ready to grow up the corn stalks as they shoot skyward.

Squash: This is the third sister of the three mentioned earlier. I have several varieties of squash growing. Most are for eating, some are for craft ideas. I have a yellow squash, some zucchini, two types of pumpkin, one is the Cinderella pumpkin and the other is the typical jack o lantern type. I also have some luffa as well as some birdhouse gourds taking up space.

Peppers: I have a nice variety of peppers growing this year. I have three different types of bell peppers, green, yellow and red. I also have some banana peppers as well as three types of hot peppers. I also am trying to grow some black peppers for my daughter to use in her flower arrangements for her wedding.

Corn: I chose a white and yellow combo sweet corn for the Three Sisters garden. I'll let you know how that turns out. I also have two short rows of popcorn growing way out back. I hope they are far enough apart so the pollen doesn't get mixed up!

Herb bed: Cilantro, parsley, rosemary, basil, marjoram, chives, thyme and sage are all growing happily in the herb bed. I have a dill plant mixed in with the corn and beans. I also have three rows of green onions.

That sounds like a lot of stuff! However, if you are a gardener, you know that you often wish you had planted more of some things and less of others. I have a feeling that I will wish I had planted more sweet corn.

What have you planted this year and how is it going? (or for you all who are down under, how did it go?)

I will give photo updates next time.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Growing year to year

Posted by: Paul Gardener
A posse ad esse (From possibility to reality)

As we work to grow our gardens, bringing fresh, healthy and organic food to our tables it's easy to get caught up in the process of picking our plants, choosing varieties, finding recipes that we'll use to preserve our harvests and just generally revelling in the excitement of either a new growing year or in the harvests that we're so enjoying as they come in. I've done it, I still do do it to some degree, but I've also learned that there are other things that I need to find some time and discipline to do. One such thing that we've been really making a concerted effort towards this year is our record keeping. It's not one of the glamorous parts of homesteading but it is, I am finding, an immensely valuable one.
List of this years preserved harvest items.

We kept our records this year, in a couple of very cheap spiral notebooks that got incredibly beaten up throughout the year. They were effective and easy to add things to though, and now that the majority of the growing season has passed us here in the northern hemisphere it is time to reconcile all the notes and charts into one location. For us that means digging into a stash of three ring binders that we salvaged from my office that were bound for the land fill, no need to waste after all. The types of things that we have added or will be adding are lists of things like what we grew this year, what we'd like to try next year, what and how much we put up for the winter and anything else we want to keep track of.
Detailed Journal of 2008 harvest totals.

This year for instance, we made it a personal goal to keep records of the weight of every item that we harvested. It allowed us to not only get a very realistic idea of how much total food we were able to produce on our own land, (over 500 lbs so far.) but it also will allow us to go back over the records in the off season and see what really did grow and produce well in our garden. Maybe we need to start earlier or try a different location, or maybe we just don't think a particular crop is worth the effort. Good records will help us to remember until next year and aid us in making adjustments to next years garden plan.
Charts showing what was grown where to help with garden rotations next year.

And that's another thing we have in our records, charts of what we grew and where we grew them. This is probably one of the things that I would say is a mandatory thing in any garden record book. I don't know about you all, but I can't remember from spring to summer what I planted where, and have made the mistake of growing the same things in the same places many times. Good crop rotation is one of the best organic gardening practices you can implement. It helps to keep pests from building up in one area, and minimizes the chances of species specific soil-born diseases from taking over. They don't need to be too detailed either, the ones in the picture above took me ten minutes to throw down on paper. I did have some notes in the beat up spiral notebooks, but most of the info I still remember. That won't be the case in February or March I assure you.
Keeping good records isn't one of those romantic, back to the land, idealistic things that we generally have come to mind, but in my opinion is one of the basic skills that we can build from the start to help ensure our other efforts are "fruitful". I encourage you to at least get a basic notebook, and start building that habit of jotting things down as they happen. Keep track of what you harvest, what kind of bugs you're seeing, weather patterns or anything else you think you may want to remember. You'll thank yourself later!
Grow on!